Watch Dogs: Legion – Hands-On Accessibility Preview

Watch Dogs: Legion is the third game in the Watch Dogs franchise for Ubisoft and the most ambitious. With its Open World concept where every NPC can become a Player Character it is ground breaking in it’s approach to the Open World genre that Ubisoft has become notable for. The question though at this point with its large scope, will it be playable for players with disabilities?

That’s what Steve Saylor, Ben Bayliss and Grant Stoner were tasked to find out. Recently they got to sit down with a hands-on virtual style E3 Behind-Closed-Doors demo . They had about 4 hours of game time and was able to do a deep dive into the accessibility options. You can read Ben’s initial thoughts here.

Steve, Ben and Grant then sat down afterwards and recorded their thoughts on the Blind, Deaf/Hard Of Hearing and Mobile accessibility of the Work in Progress so far. Check out the video below for their thoughts.

If you want to check out what the menu options look like, check out the video HERE.

Transcript

Steve Saylor: Hi, I’m Steve Saylor, I’m blind and if you’re wondering how I’m able to play video games if I’m blind, if you take a look at the video here you can see exactly what I see when I’m playing video games. This is a very special episode of Blind Impressions because today we’re looking at Watch Dogs Legion. Myself, Grant Stoner, and Ben Bayliss from CanIPlayThat.com, we got a chance to preview the game early, we took a heavy in-depth look at the accessibility that’s currently available in this work in progress.

Today we’re gonna be jumping into some of the general thoughts that we had about the accessibility of Watch Dogs including each of our own individual disabilities from blindness to deaf and hard of hearing and motor disability and our thoughts on each of those and then give sort of our fun moments that we found in the demo. So without any further ado, let’s jump right into the conversation. First off, what did you guys think of the game itself? Grant, we’ll start with you.

Grant Stoner: A solid seven or eight out of ten.

Steve: Really, why would you give it that?

Grant: So my main issue with Watch Dogs is there’s always so much to do but not in a traditional open-world sense like you’re driving, your mates are keeping hacking vehicles, barriers, drones, people, cameras, turrets, and oftentimes I get lost and overwhelmed when I’m trying to go toward an objective because I see other markers on the map and in my field of view and naturally I just wanna press every single button but if I do in Watch Dogs, it causes a mass pandemonium which often derails my experience. Like I was driving down a street, hit the hack button, drove a car into a police vehicle, and then all the police were onto me for a solid five minutes. I was like “Well, I don’t want this. “I mean it’s fun, but it’s not what I wanted.”

Watch Dogs Legion Example of the mobile phone hackign

Steve: Yeah, you’re a rebel but you don’t wanna break the law too much. Not too much. A little bit here, a little bit there. Okay. Ben, what’d you think?

Ben Bayliss: Yeah, I mean, I’m British, so you know, to me, this game was home, really, you know? Running around London and there’s people saying random stuff. One NPC got out of a car and literally just said “fart.”

In-Game: Nonce! Fool, fool, fart!

Then went back in and drove off. So it’s basically pretty much a British simulator but stereotype. But I think so far my thoughts pretty much echo Grant’s in that there is just so much going on.

Steve: Yeah I would kind of agree with you guys. I enjoyed what I was able to play. But I definitely think there was just a lot to do and I think when you have, this kind of takes the open-world into a new direction where the idea of you can recruit anybody. Any of the NPCs is a playable character. All you have to do is just figure out the recruitment mission and you can be able to add them to your team and they basically become your player characters, as it were. But there’s just so much to do like the fact that you can just sort of scan a crowd and basically, okay, this person’s a barista, this person’s a lawyer, this person’s a construction worker, this random person’s a spy, okay, all right.

It’s so many different things and there’s so much detail in just each individual person that it almost seems like this game should be impossible and yet it exists and we’ve played it. And I think playing it, and just having so much to do, I kind of, I just mainly focused in on, okay, you know what, what are my objectives, what are the little activities that I can be able to do instead of just doing kind of the exploring the world, I just wanna like, okay, let’s focus on the stuff I wanna do and let’s just do that and try not to be overwhelmed by everything else around you.

We got to see, obviously the beginning of the game with the kind of the opening mission/cinematic and then we were kinda dropped in halfway through the game, so we can be able to kinda do a bunch of different missions and activities with a squad and a team kind of already unlocked for us. As far as accessibility that you saw, did you guys explore the accessibility menus?

Grant: Everything that I wanted was there. Not everything worked the way I wanted it to, but everything that I wanted was there.

Steve: That’s awesome. Ben?

Ben: Probably for me, it’s everything that I needed was there but the problem for me was that the way it was presented wasn’t how I would’ve wanted it.

Watch Dogs Legion first level showing pre-combat

Steve: Yeah, I would agree with you guys. It’s everything is there that I would want but there’s not enough customization of those options that would customize to completely how I want it. So, I think that that’s, we’re gonna definitely see that in a lot of games kinda over the next couple of years when they’re starting to kind of develop these accessibility settings that they’re gonna just add all these options in, but it’s gonna take a while for studios essentially to be able to customize it or at least have the player customize it that makes it easier, or not easier, but just barrier-less for, to be able to just jump in and play. So let’s jump into each individual disability type and what we liked a lot. So Ben, we’ll start off with you because you had, you played this a couple of days before we did. As far as from deaf accessibility, how did you feel the game presented some of the options that they had and did you find were they effective, or what kind of options did you like out of it? Just kind of give your general thoughts.

Ben: I like that I could open up the menu, there was everything that I wanted there. There were full captions, which you’ve got the option between having no subtitles, subtitles that obviously give you your key dialogue, and then you’ve got the full captions that give you your key dialogue and also anyone around you that’s speaking. And I found that was really good and they also actually had the directional arrow which points you to the direction that person’s talking but then there was also another option that I really liked, which kinda reminded me of Far Cry 5, where it’s world captions. And on the right-hand lower side of the screen, you’ll have like little mini subtitles detailing what’s going on around you in terms of the world. So the birds chirping, there was a subtitle for engine running, a crash, just little things like that. And I really liked that and it helped me understand what was going on around me even more than normal and as much as I liked it.

I also felt like it was a little bit too confusing almost because you had subtitles, then you’ve got the full captions, then you’ve got like three or four blocks of captions going on to the right-hand side and I’m trying to read everything that’s going on and then you’ve got the HUD menu and then your hacking some game developer’s phone who’s walking past, or an elderly politician. And it was just so much information there, but in terms of subtitles, everything that I wanted was there. And I was happy that it was there, happy I was able to read it, I just don’t know how it could’ve been made simpler but it did feel like there was too much being presented at one go.

Steve: I had full captions on as well and it was a lot. Like it was, you had the subtitles within the cinematic but then you don’t even hear the people talking around you. All I see is just the caption underneath of what they’re talking about. And it’s like two layers of dialogue happening and you’re kinda confused as to what, as to, wait, what am I supposed to be focusing on. And it was, cognitively it was a lot. It was a lot to take in, so I agree with you on that. Grant, what about you? What was it like for you from a mobility standpoint?

Grant: My favorite aspect of it was fully customizable controls which if any of you know me, it’s my major component that I need in any video game. And you don’t need to rebind every key. So like if I bind my aim key to say caps lock, which is what I usually do, you don’t have to worry about using the right mouse button for something else. I can just leave it and it’s fine. They had also, which I found very interesting, your camera would also position itself behind your character whenever you moved, which is gonna be really useful for controller layouts. I use the mouse and keyboard so I didn’t use that feature. And then a feature which I found really helpful, but it was sort of, I don’t wanna say broken, because that seems negative, but it didn’t work the way I thought it would. Auto-aiming. So if you aim, it automatically locks on to a target, but the way the reticle goes is, it positions itself in the center of whatever you’re shooting at and it’s really problematic for when characters hide behind cover.

an example of the red electrical cables inside of walls

Steve: I had the exact same problem.

Ben: Yep.

Steve: You couldn’t sort of like, flip the, like for me I was playing on a controller, being able to flip the right thumbstick up so that you can be able to aim up towards the head and it wouldn’t allow me to do that. So I had to turn auto-aim off but then have targeting set to like strong and magnetize strong. So essentially it would lock on to a person but it would still give you the freedom to aim. And I kinda felt that that was the only time I ever felt for auto-aim that it just didn’t work the way, yeah, like you said, that I would’ve wanted to. It seemed kinda like it was set up in a different way. Yeah, I agree with you on that one.

Grant: One other feature that I found really nice, auto-drive. So when you’re in your vehicle and you open your map and you mark a position, like a blue set of arrows, appear on the overworld to tell you how to get there. And whenever you get in a vehicle, if you press, for me on the keyboard it was Z, the vehicle drives itself to that position. Which was amazing. Because I have trouble driving on mouse and keyboard, unless it’s Halo style where basically you’re holding W and your vehicle moves with your camera.

But most games don’t do that, so for this game to have that option, in a very vehicle-centric game, was very, very nice. The issues that I found most aggravating for me, were there was no toggle for sprinting, at least I couldn’t find it, so my character was perpetually in a light jog if you will. And then for the area where your character is slowed to a walk, I couldn’t really like transition to a jog speed. Like in certain quest areas where it has to be, you know, incognito, if you will. So that was really annoying because there was areas that took me forever because I couldn’t move at normal speed.

Another thing that bothered me was whenever you hack certain objects like cameras, conveyor belt, or like window washing units, or even drones, if you want to exit, you have to press escape. There is no other option. And for me, it’s very tiring.

Watch Dogs Legion driving with arrow markings on the ground

Steve: Right.

Grant: The way escape is positioned for my keyboard and mouse, it was very exhausting, especially in sequences where you have to hack multiple cameras and multiple systems that require you to manually control them. At the end of those encounters which involved fighting, hacking, inability to sprint, aiming, so on and so forth, my hands were exhausted. Like I said, it’s almost perfect. Like you can see the finish line. It’s just not there. And because it’s not there, it is problematic.

Steve: From the blind accessibility side, I found that there was definitely a lot there but I think it actually in a way for me, was lacking. I think for you guys, for deaf and hard of hearing and for motor disabilities, it seemed like you had everything there that you wanted just wasn’t customizable the way you wanted it. For me, there was just, there was a lot of sort of UI elements that were really hard for me to see. I found that the HUD and some of the menu items were too small and really hard for me to be able to see, especially, like I said, when you’re trying to move your cursor around to be able to find that specific object that you need to interact with, it was really difficult to find, especially if it’s a little bit further off and it just, I found that it just overall a lot of the HUD and UI, it wasn’t customizable. Like you could customize the size of subtitles and certain things. But you couldn’t like customize the HUD at all, or HUD scaling or anything like that. And the only thing that benefited me on the menu side was that there was text-to-speech.

Computer: Villains of London. Previous/next category, B-button back.

Steve: Now granted it wasn’t as robust as the text-to-speech in The Last of Us Part 2 or from what I’ve seen. And I sort of equate that to it is a demo, it’s not the final version of the game, but that helps a lot of cases where there was small text in the menus that just made it difficult to be able to see and read at a glance, so I just had the text-to-speech just sort of read stuff for me, especially like emails and files that you sort of pick up in the world. So I found that, that was something that I kinda feel, wish was there and it wasn’t.

And that was kind of the most difficult part. Like even looking at the map alone, there was so many small icons that I couldn’t tell what the heck I was supposed to be doing. Like even, there was small icons that you can sort of be able to do, “dead-sec” sort of type activities, where you sort of you can either sabotage or you can digitally deface, which is actually a cool mission to do, but trying to be able to see that on the map it was like a really, really tiny icon and even when you select it as a way point, it comes up as a tiny icon on the world as well. So, like, I was able to do it. But it was a lot of active looking.

Watch Dogs Legion builder character about to hack a cctv camera the other side of a wall.

And I think Grant, I think you mentioned, no it was Courtney that actually mentioned it in The Last Of Us, I never sort of thought about the amount of active listening that Courtney would’ve had to have done for a lot of games and I sort of felt in this case, for me, I had to do a lot of active looking and it definitely by the end of my three or four hours, I was kind of mentally exhausted, just because of the amount of information that was on screen at a time. I think that there are definitely some things that definitely work well, that can help. And I’m trying to think of specific options that like, other than being able to increase the subtitle size, which was great. I appreciated that.

Like you said Ben, I think I would’ve loved to been able to be increased a little more. But it just, I would say it doesn’t have everything I want and that’s what kind of hindered me from wanting to be able to fully enjoy this game. And that’s the thing, I loved this game. I actually really did have a lot of fun. I had a blast going through each mission. I think each activity that you do and every mission, every recruitment mission that you do, I think is an absolute blast to be able to do, but I don’t know how it would feel 10, 15, 20 hours in to this when it’s gonna get either repetitive or it’s just too much for my eyes and I would get fatigued.

So I think in a way that the visual impairment aspect of accessibility is something that is still missing for me and it doesn’t hit on all the right spots that I would want it to. Okay, so that’s kind of our individual thoughts on each of the disability types. But let’s, before we finish off this video, let’s talk about some of the fun stuff that we got to do because there’s like, I noticed that there was a lot of fun things that are in this that were a blast. Ben, why don’t we start with you?

Ben: One of the things that I quite liked was the ability to hack a drone and climb on that drone and then you can travel London on top of the drone. I actually used that to cheat on one of the missions I needed to sneak into a restricted area. So instead, I just got the drone and flew over, I landed in, done. And it was so easy.

Steve: See, that’s the thing. I don’t think it’s cheating because they say there are multiple ways to get in and you just found the shortest path.

Ben: There was also your hideout. One of the locations, I’m not sure if it’s all of them but that one place in the Pub. Me being British, I found my home, went straight to the bar. And you can drink and you can get drunk and I actually, I think, I know we’re not probably really supposed to mention stuff like this, but I drank about seven pints and the effects didn’t go away. And the demoist was saying that this [the effect] shouldn’t have been happening for this long. So I had to switch characters.

Steve: So here’s the thing with me for that, I went to the same pub too and I was like, you know what, I’m just gonna keep drinking until I pass out and I did. I drank so much that my character was like, “all right, that’s it, pass out.” And then just like everything went black and basically I had to choose a different character because it just said my character passed out. I loved it so much.

Grant: So I went to that same bar that everyone went to apparently, and there was a dartboard behind the bar. And you know, we were given a specific amount of time, to do this demo, to explore everything it has to offer, you know, get your feet going, running across the city of London, doing things, I spent 30 minutes playing darts.

Steve: 30 minutes, really?

Grant: 30 minutes. It was the best 30 minutes of my life. I remember being like this is so fun and the demoist was like “you’re unparalleled, no one can beat you. You’re the best dart player ever.” It was just so much fun.

Steve: I love it, the guy that can barely use his hands was the best at darts.

Grant: Yeah. Oh my gosh, it was so much fun. And then like I challenged someone to darts, because you can do solo or versus, and so the first time I challenged someone, the camera bugged out, and I probably shouldn’t have said that but here we go, and I won, without actually doing anything. And so my difficulty went up a rank because it showed that I won. Even though I didn’t do anything, so I was like, “oh no.”

Steve: Oh my god, that’s awesome.

Grant: It was like, “this is amazing.”

Steve: I didn’t do any of the darts because I was like, I was just determined, I want to get my guy, because I had like an assassin and I want to see how many drinks it takes to be able to pass out, get him to pass out. I think it was up to like seven or eight by the time he finally passed out. Oh, oh! Oh, I almost forgot, okay. So, back to the base, when you’re in the base, did you guys try to customize your weapons at all? Like adding skins to your weapons.

Okay, so here’s the thing, and the demoist was actually kind of impressed too, because I had text-to-speech on, a lot of the skins that are there, just sort of like, you can’t really tell just from the thumbnails, and even when you apply them what specifically they are. But the text-to-speech actually has a name for each individual one. So there’s one that kind of looks like an Arizona iced tea can and it kinda has the sort of that style. But with the text-to-speech, when you hover over it, it’s not called Arizona iced tea, it’s actually called.

Computer: Grandmacore

It was like so weird and there was also like, oh there was one that was also called bubblegum with bullets. And I was like, yes that totally makes sense. Oh, and the best part, there actually is a skin in there, that actually the demoist had seen people use multiple times but it’s sort of deceiving because it looks like it would be camo but if you look closely and the demoist didn’t know this until I hovered over it with the text-to-speech, it’s actually a bunch of corgis with crowns on them.

Grant: Oh my gosh.

Steve: And I select that for every single weapon that I had. It was so dang cute and it was awesome. I loved it. Like even the demoist was like, “I have never seen that before, that is awesome.” So, that’s the thing, there’s so many little things in here that just make the world fun and kind of adds that sort of fun that the Watch Dogs series has had but in kind of conjunction with all this serious stuff. To me, it actually makes the game much more playable and enjoyable, like even regardless of some of the accessibility stuff that’s missing, I think it’s as a gameplay, it’s definitely a lot of fun.

All right, cool. With that being said, thank you so much for watching. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. That’s it for us. Stay tuned for more Watch Dogs coverage. If you want to see more of our thoughts and impressions, make sure to go to CanIPlayThat.com and take a look at some of the coverage that we have there. Thank you so much.

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Steve Saylor is a Toronto-based podcaster, radio host, Blind Gamer, YouTuber, Twitch Streamer, Graphic Designer, Content Creator and College Professor all while being blind! Starting in 2015, his entertaining YouTube series “Blind Gamer” fuses humour with his passion for playing video games. In just a few short years he is considered a thought leader on accessibility in gaming and an advocate for developers to push video game accessibility forward. Steve is the top Blind Gamer in Canada and has worked with prominent clients in the video game industry.
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